I used to be the biggest fiction reader. My favorite books ever are those of the Harry Potter series, and nothing will ever top them (besides the Bible, of course!). In my younger days I consumed Warriors, Percy Jackson, or whatever else the good fiction of the day was. More recently, just a few years ago, I flew through Dan Brown’s books, which have all been fantastic. However, with rising interests in theology and politics, my attention to the former type of things has fallen, even to things like movies or TV shows, things other Christians watch or read with ease while I sit here wondering, “are fictitious movies and books a waste of time when I could be reading a book on the doctrine of God or the history of the church?” And it’s from thoughts like these that some of us Christians need freedom. I certainly will not advocate for the Netflix addictions so many people have today. But a healthy dose of fiction and enjoyment allows us to participate in and reflect God’s creativity in the world, something I have been learning.
Out of the 32 books I read in 2018, a mere four were works of fiction: The Poisonwood Bible, Slaughterhouse-Five, Pride and Prejudice, and The Screwtape Letters. A lot of reflection on the topic addressed in the first paragraph has led to a shift this year. Out of the 19 books I have read so far this year (working on three more at the moment), seven have been fiction books, including the classics The Sun Also Rises, The Invisible Man, and To Kill a Mockingbird. In addition to these books, I have also started a TV show. I heard JT English, pastor of The Village Church Institute, mention The West Wing countless times in TVC’s amazing Knowing Faith podcast. I gave it a shot and have absolutely loved it. I can’t get enough of the White House staff, the storyline, everything. And it is through outlets such as fiction books and The West Wing that I have learned new things in my walk with Christ.
Russell Moore wrote a fantastic article titled “Why Christians Should Read Fiction” awhile back that I happened to come across in the winter. He explains how fiction and imagery help our moral development by teaching us certain affections and gives the example of learning to sympathize with those around us. Dr. Moore touches on how Jesus spoke with stories, such as with the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). He highlights a unique role that fiction plays: “Fiction can sometimes, like Nathan the prophet’s story of the ewe lamb, awaken parts of us that we have calloused over, due to ignorance or laziness or inattention or sin.” Furthermore, showing empathy is something with which I struggle, and Dr. Moore even says he thinks fiction plays a role in growing his ability to empathize. Finally, I read a few concluding sentences that sealed the deal for me in deciding to read and think differently in 2019:
They are rooted in an endlessly creative God who has chosen to be imaged by human beings who create. Culture isn’t irrelevant. It’s part of what God commanded us to do in the beginning, and that he declares to be good. When you enjoy truth and beauty, when you are blessed by gifts God has given to a human being, you are enjoying a universe that, though fallen, God delights in as “very good.”
We can enjoy creative activities and the creative works of others in a way that helps us further enjoy our creative God who delights in His creation (Gen. 1; Ps. 104:31). These activities don’t replace our time in Scripture or our time in prayer. They just add more kindling to the fire in fueling our praise for a good God.